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5 Things to Know About New Vikings DE Nate Orchard

DE Nate Orchard
DE Nate Orchard

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings have added an edge rusher to their defense, the team announced Tuesday.

Minnesota signed free agent defensive end Nate Orchard, originally a second-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2015, to its practice squad.

Orchard has primarily played the outside linebacker role in 3-4 base defenses with the Browns (2015-17) and the Washington Football Team (2019-20) but is expected to be a defensive end in Minnesota's 4-3 system.

Signing Orchard increases depth for the Vikings, who recently added Danielle Hunter to Injured Reserve with a season-ending pectoral injury.

Here are five things to know about Orchard:

1. Former Utah standout

Orchard played four seasons at Utah and appeared in all 50 games, including 36 starts. He finished tied for third in school history in career sacks (25), and his 38.5 career tackles for loss is tied for the second-most in school history. Orchard's eight forced fumbles also tie for second in Utes history.

As a senior in 2014, Orchard won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end (FBS), was named to 10 All-America teams and was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

2. Up-and-down production

Orchard's most successful season actually was his rookie campaign, when he started 11 of 15 games played for the Browns. He recorded his first and only career interception, picking off Chiefs QB Alex Smith, and totaled a career high in tackles (36), sacks (3.0) and passes defensed (4).

Orchard last played three games for Washington in 2020 but was waived in November of that year. He has spent brief stints with the Texans and Titans since but has not been active for a game.

3. Sprinter's speed

Football isn't the only sport Orchard excelled in as a youngster.

He attended Highland High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he played football and basketball. Orchard also competed in track as a sprinter and posted personal bests of 11.9 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 54.3 seconds in the 400-meter dash at the 2009 Region VI T&F Championships.

In football, Orchard played on both sides of the ball as a receiver and a defensive end. He totaled 58 catches for 1,351 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. That same season, he also recorded 62 tackles, 17.5 sacks and two interceptions on defense.

4. Changed name in college

Orchard's full name is Napaa Lilo Fakahafua Orchard after taking his guardians' last name in 2013. He has a compelling and moving backstory, having moved in at age 13 with his basketball coach, Dave Orchard, and his wife Katherine.

"I knew that the Orchard family was true to me, and I changed my name to theirs, knowing that these are my parents and I'm proud to call them [Mom] and Dad," Orchard said in a 2015 interview. "So I changed my last name to theirs right before I got married."

When Nate and his wife Maegan welcomed their first child during Nate's time at Utah, the couple named her Katherine Mae.

5. Family man

After Katherine, Orchard and Maegan added two more children to their family: another daughter, Charlotte, and a son, Bo Webber.